We just came across this great blog post by Jackielou Perez. During her reflection on Season 8 of So You Think You Can Dance she profiles AXIS Dance Company:
Thinking outside the box: Profiling AXIS Dance Company
post by WantToDance
As we reflect on Season 8 of So You Think You Can Dance (U.S.), you can’t help but think of all the great performances we’ve seen on the show. There was Melanie and Marko’s statue dance, Jordan and Tadd’s bird dance and the return of our favourite All-Stars from season’s past. What also caught our eye were the performances by during the results show. No, it wasn’t Lady Gaga singing 'Edge of Glory', but a Contemporary dance company hailing from the San Francisco Bay Area.
What was exciting about this dance was that it wasn't the Contemporary piece we are used to seeing -one of the dancers was in a wheelchair. The piece itself was beautiful, giving a new meaning to what it means to be a dancer. We at wanttodance.ca later found out that this piece was much longer and included more dancers with and without physical disabilities. Nautrally, we had to learn more about AXIS Dance Company.
After talking to Judith Smith, one of the founders of AXIS, we learned that the company's been making waves in the dance community long before SYTYCD was even a show.
"With this form of dance, you really have to see it to believe it," she said. "It’s not like ballet where you close your eyes and imagine it. When you close your eyes and try to picture a contemporary dancer and a dancer in a wheelchair, it draws a blank."
And lucky for us (and throngs of people tuning in to the dance show), we were able to see just that.
"It’s a little ironic," she said, referring to the buzz on the internet and in the media before and after the SYTYCD appearance. "We’ve been around for 24 years, and after just three minutes of dance and a minute of talking, the awareness just jumps."
AXIS is one of the first contemporary dance companies in the world to consciously develop choreography that has dancers with and without physical disabilities. And let's make one thing clear: it's not about people in a wheelchair trying to keep up with or move the way a non-disabled person would. It's about integrating the movements of both and creating something new, thinking outside the box. The company has been doing a number of things to bring awareness to this form of contemporary dance by perfoming for local communities, touring, commissioning choreography outside the company and by hosting educational programs with workshops, lectures. To date, the company has sixty choreographed pieces and perform to about 15, 000 kids a year.
It may not be the usual Contemporary we're used to seeing on television, but then again since when is contemporary ever just the norm? For Smith, it's about expanding the vocabulary of dance and she hopes that the stint on SYTYCD can bring the audience to the theatres and see Contemporary how it was meant to be seen: without the cameras, the commercial breaks and without the screaming fans.
And what does it mean for dance itself?
"I think it’s definitely changing the landscape of dance and broadening the definition of what it means to dance and be a dancer adding to the diversity of contemporary dance and what’s possible."
While the company has yet to visit Canada, they do hope to tour the country soon. For now, Canadians can check out the talents of these local physically integrated dance companies: